APPLE homepod $349

Smart home device on market in February

It’s later than expected, but Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home will be available at Apple Stores on Feb. 9. Preorders have begun.

Apple said HomePod’s main selling point is superior audio quality; at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple called the HomePod a smart “musicologist” at home and said it is competing with Sonos’ high-end audio speakers rather than the Amazon Echo.

The HomePod will be compatible with iPhones as old as iPhone 5S and will be able to play music from Apple Music, Apple said last week. It is unclear whether HomePod will be compatible with other music services such as Spotify.

HomePod will rely on Siri to answer all commands. Siri will be able to send messages, become an iPhone speakerphone, set timers and reminders, and allow users to listen to the news, check the weather and control smart home devices connected to Apple’s HomeKit. The smart speaker will support third-party apps such as WhatsApp and ESPN.

HomePod’s ability to play across rooms or be set up with other speakers will not be available until later this year with a software update.

Apple also said it has addressed privacy concerns with encryption activated by commands for Siri and other modes.

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Cord-cutters can get local TV with device

The Connect Duo is an over-the-air TV tuner that takes the broadcast signals from local TV stations and makes them available on your home network.

The “normal” way to watch over-the-air channels is to connect an antenna to your TV and scan for channels to watch on that one set. With the Connect Duo, you connect your antenna to the device, which connects to your home’s internet network via Ethernet cable.

You can watch the stream from the Connect Duo to many platforms, through apps for your devices or on your TV through an Amazon Fire TV device.

For now, the Connect Duo works on Apple TV or Roku through a Plex app. The interface works nicely. To add recording capability, you will need to purchase an annual subscription for $35 and add appropriate networked storage. The annual subscription allows the downloading of 14 days’ worth of guide data.